North Korea sentences American student to 15 years hard labor

North Korea sentences American student to 15 years hard labor
© Getty Images

North Korea’s high court sentenced an American student on Wednesday to 15 years in prison with hard labor after he tearfully confessed to trying to steal a political banner.

ADVERTISEMENT

After a one-hour trial, the court held that Otto Warmbier had committed a crime "pursuant to the U.S. government's hostile policy toward [the North], in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist,” according to The Associated Press.

Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate, had been charged with subversion.

On Jan. 2, he was arrested at a Pyongyang airport on his way back to China after a five-day trip.

Last month, he appeared at a North Korean government-arranged press conference and sobbed while he confessed to trying to steal a banner with a political slogan from a Pyongyang hotel.

North Korean state-run media has said Warmbier confessed that a member of his church offered him a $10,000 used car if took the banner and that a secret society at his school also encouraged him to do it.

It's unclear if Warmbier's confession was given under duress.

Warmbier’s conviction comes at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and America.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made almost daily threats as U.S. and South Korean military forces conduct large-scale exercises.

Kim also lashed out after the United Nations approved strict new sanctions in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launch.